November 20, 2019

Is Christmas Getting Too Expensive?

Is Christmas getting to be a celebration for the wealthy? It may not be too far from the truth.

Between the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the last minute sales just before Christmas, the American commercialization of Christmas has increased the amount the average person spends for this Holiday. For 2016, it is expected that the average American will spend $929 on gifts for friends and loved ones. The retail industry will record sales close to $3.19 trillion. Christmas accounts for 19.2% of the total retail sales for the year. Just over 768,000 employees were hired throughout the United States to compensate for the Holiday rush. For some retailers, it begins in September and runs into January. Over 15% of retailers begin Holiday promotions on October 1st. Over 100 million shoppers hit the retail stores on Black Friday but over 109 million shoppers shopped on line to the tune of $94.71 billion.

The average family spends $30 on Christmas cards. Americans will write and send 1.6 billion Christmas cards this year with the average card costing $1.20. Christmas tree sales will reach an expected $1.32 billion this season. Tree costs vary all over the map but a high percentage of tree buyers will pay around $60 for a tree. Gift cards, which have become increasingly more popular, are expected to top over $140 billion for the 2016 Holiday Season.

Unfortunately, too much of this American “cheer” is put on plastic and again, unfortunately, too many Americans will carry this debt into the following year. According to the Federal Reserve, the average credit card interest rate is 13.93%. If you spend $1,000 this Holiday Season and make only the minimum payment, you will end up paying more than $350 in interest. If you use a store credit card with an interest rate of 24.5%, you could end up paying over $1,000 in interest.

There is no doubt that the average cost of an “American” Christmas is going up. Actually, the cost for many consumers is becoming burdensome. The average cost of many “expected” toys for children is $64.99. The cost can skyrocket when you get into products like iPads that can run from $269.99 up to and exceeding $1,229.99. Never before have consumers had to draw the line in their Holiday purchases. Many consumers can just not afford the cost. It is estimated that over one third or roughly 36% of all shoppers will overspend during the Holidays.

There is no easy answer. It is difficult to develop a budget and stick to it. We are all influenced by the advertisements and television commercials. Many of the advertisements stress a certain guilt trip when it comes to not rewarding your loved one during the Holidays. Fine jewelry sales including rings, necklaces, and watches are estimated to top $4.9 billion in sales for the coming Holiday Season. Many jewelry stores spend the majority of their advertising budget during the Holidays.

Like anything else we do, we have to put the Holiday Season in perspective. Yes it is important but just how important is it? Is it worth spending money we don’t have? Is it worth overspending? Can family and friends and the enjoyment we get from getting together take the place of gifts, jewelry, and trips? Should we consider rewarding the less fortunate at this time of year? Giving money or donating our time to feeding the homeless men and women of our community? There is a reward that money cannot measure when it comes to giving and not receiving.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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